Tomkins unfazed by Rio comparisons

James Tomkins insists he is not weighed down by the burden of being described as the new Rio Ferdinand

By JONATHAN CLEGG

JAMES TOMKINS insists he is not weighed down by the burden of being described as the new Rio Ferdinand.

The 20-year-old defender has been tipped to emulate former Hammers ace Ferdinand by becoming a future England star following his emergence as a West Ham regular this season.

Tomkins made his eighth successive Premier League start at Upton Park last weekend and produced another assured display against Chelsea, fuelling speculation that he will be named in Stuart Pearce's England Under-21 squad this summer.


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Manager Gianfranco Zola raves about the Basildon-born youngster's potential, while Hammers team-mate Matthew Upson has hailed Tomkins as a "great prospect".

As the latest promising centre-half to graduate from West Ham's famous academy, the England Under-20 skipper has big shoes to fill at a club that has produced Bobby Moore, Alvin Martin, Tony Gale and Manchester United captain Ferdinand.

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Yet Tomkins insists he feels no pressure and is keen to carve out his own reputation at the Boleyn Ground.

He said: "It's brilliant to be following the players that have come through here. I look at how they played as well and try to improve my game by using their example.

"Obviously I look up to Rio as a great player, so it's a great feeling if someone says I've got attributes like him. I want to be a player that can play it out from the back, I want to feel comfortable on the ball.

"But it's such early days that I just want to keep improving and focusing on my game to be as good as I can.

"I don't feel any pressure because of the other players that have come through, I just want to do as well as I can, try to keep level-headed, keep improving and keep learning."

Yet while Tomkins is happy to continue his bid to become the club's latest England defender, he reveals that he could have been following in the footsteps of Sir Geoff Hurst, Tony Cottee and Jermain Defoe.

"I played striker for my local Sunday League team and I used to score a few, but I was moved back to defence after a year or two at West Ham because they saw that as a position where I could further my career," Tomkins said.

"You never know how far I would've got if I was still a striker, but I'm glad they changed me. I enjoy defending now I think it's more me anyway.

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